Typhoon Phanfone lashes Japan

OCTOBER 6, 2014

Typhoon Phanfone lashed Japan on Monday with torrential rain - killing at least one person, forcing the cancellation of flights and prompting warnings to more than 200 000 people to evacuate their homes.

Three US servicemen were swept away by high waves lashing the southwestern island of Okinawa on Sunday as the typhoon hit. One was found dead and two were missing. A surfer was reportedly swept out to sea.

The storm brushed past the capital, Tokyo, and by noon was moving rapidly northeast, clearing skies enough that Mount Fuji was clearly visible to the southwest of the city.

Heavy rains forced the cancellation of a search for victims of Mount Ontake, with 12 people still missing after an eruption last week killed at least 51. A score of households in the foothills of the peak were evacuated out of concerns that heavy rains could cause mudslides as ash is washed downstream.

Tropical Storm Risk, which tracks cyclones, labelled Phanfone a category one typhoon, the lowest rung on a scale of one to five. It was category four as it approached.

Close to 200 000 households throughout eastern Japan were urged to evacuate due to fears of landslides or flooding as rivers threatened to burst their banks. This included some 20 000 in Tokyo.

Wind blew heavy rain into sheets, booming between buildings in the city. A car in the neighbouring city of Yokohama was buried in branches from a fallen tree.

Some areas were forecast to see a month's worth of rain before the storm weakened and headed out to sea, expected later on Monday. One city in the central area of Shizuoka had 9 cm of rain in an hour.

The storm had sustained winds of 129 kph (80 mph) with gusts up to 185 kph and was moving northeast at 65 kph as of 11 a.m. (0200 GMT), Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Phanfone made landfall near the central city of Hamamatsu, prompting Honda to halt production at its Hamamatsu and Suzuka plants, while Nissan said it was halting production at its Oppama plant. Toyota said it was halting production at 12 plants.

Six hundred domestic flights were cancelled, with Japan Airlines saying it had cancelled 19 international flights. 

A spokesman at Tokyo Electric Power Company said it had taken preventive steps at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, securing equipment, cables and ropes.

Heavy rain delayed the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday, which eventually saw two starts behind the safety car and ended before the full distance due to a crash in which French driver Jules Bianchi suffered a severe head injury.